The Favourite (***)
By Jon Waterman
Summary – Queen Anne heavily relies on her confidant Lady Sarah to help her with matters of state. The Queen is stricken by the gout and other ailments and so Sarah tends to her every need. One day, Sarah’s cousin Abigail arrives looking for work at the castle, and Sarah obliges. Over time, Abigail makes herself more and more important to the Queen, sparking a power struggle between the two that only one can win.
Under Contract – Director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) and cinematographer Robbie Ryan (“American Honey”) almost exclusively use wide angle lenses with generous use of fish eyes. It’s an interesting choice if only for the fact that it’s immediately noticeable. You also can’t avoid the very quick pivots the camera makes as someone walks across the room. Most of the time it felt like I was watching security footage or taking a 360-degree online home tour to really show off the décor of the palace. Or at least three or four rooms of the estate. The Queen is restricted due to her medical conditions, so the rooms are possibly being warped visually to off-set any claustrophobia.
Queen – The visual style may not be to everyone’s taste, but the acting most likely will be. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are two strong characters going back and forth. Emma’s portrayal of Abigail is a bit one-dimensional (being two-faced), but Rachel’s Sarah has some nice depth, jagged edges and rounded corners. Olivia Colman as Queen Anne is the star here. It’s hard for me to articulate, but she gives the strength of a queen with the vulnerability of someone who is ill. The longing, the distrust, the pure joy, the machinations, the everything. Then add to it the subtle degradation of health, such as an unmentioned stroke that just appears, and you have an incredibly award-worthy performance.
Hoity Toity – I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of the film other than to say that these people supposedly all existed. Frankly, I don’t care because it was still compelling. However, I can’t help but think that this movie was made for the film critics and student types. I don’t see a path to mass-market appeal and I wouldn’t blame an audience for being bored. You don’t close a movie with that last long shot if you’re not trying to appeal to the stiff upper lip crowd.
Biggest Standout – I’ve already talked about the real standouts, so I’ll give the nod to the dancing. Those 18th century dandies know how to get down.
Biggest Disappointment – Even though the film held my attention, the plot was a bit too predictable. Meaning, it was easy to know when the power was changing gears, and usually even how that switch was going to happen.
Is It Worth Watching Again? – It was an interesting movie, but I don’t think I would need to watch it again. It wasn’t my favorite of the year.
Running Time: 119 min
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz